Working Throughout Asia

Working in Hong Kong and Asia for years has brought up some fascinating findings, both culture, expectations from Employers and the general personalities around us. Of course I'm talking From a software Developers Point of view.

About myself

Before I came to software engineeringI was a stage manager in British theatreIs scene,  But the theatre industry was slowly shutting down and I had to look for a career change, As I was involved already with the theatre technology such as sound and light engineering in the process becoming a certified electrician. After a 3 year army break as a paramedic, I returned to the theatre and worked my way up to become a stage manager, so I decided to pursue my love of technology and do a degree in robotics at Salford University. During this time I met my wife to be who was from China and arrange our marriage before the finals. 
After my degree I work for the government for six months and decoded virus attack, Which was pretty interesting as this was the early days of the Internet and floppy disks were common. At this point myself and my wife decided to move to Hong Kong as this was closer to her family and was a good career move.
When I first came to Hong Kong I was building databases in clipper, DBaseIV and FoxPro for a shipping company and they were using an AS400 machine and wanted to switch from AS400 to  PC-based Micro farm. This was effectively a whole bunch of 386 computers all networked together and connected to a dedicated international lease-line that the shipping companies used to share data, Moving on I worked for various corporations and start-ups in Hong Kong and large retail organisations including some banks and I can share some experience of working in Asia and what expect.

The environment

One think you will find pretty quickly when you arrive in Asia is the difference in whether you may find that it's pretty warm but when you go in doors to an office It feels like walking into fridge and many people seem to argue on what the temperature setting should be. And they give up and start wearing scarfs, cardigans or jumpers Inside, so my basic advice is be prepared for either a hot steamy outside walk to public transport and freezing cold conditions at your desk. If you feel cold and want to get want to get warm, go outside. The winters are quite short and the Typhoons are usually good excuses for a one day holiday or unexpected bank holiday but don't expect deadlines to change.

Public Transport

Public transport is one of the great things about working in Asia and especially Hong Kong because of the density of the population varies more options for travelling around the terror Tories such as underground railway trams buses minibuses taxes are so frequent and in addition some countries like Philippines have got their minivans, I personally like to drive a motorcycle and I found this very efficient way to quickly get between places I want to go for example going to work or weekend exploring, there is no better mode of transport in Asia.

Business Types

Throughout Asia you will find many different business types but specifically in Hong Kong it focuses mostly on banking, shipping and start-up companies,Mixing amongst all these will be your usual utility based companies such as retail, utility, Telecom, Mobile etc, which all have their own individual political structures. 
But one type of company which is very dominant especially in the fast-moving environment of Hong Kong is the start-up. Many of these companies aim to get rich quick by creating a business from some concept like DNA Analyses or Information platform or some other solution then give great value to the business and put it on the stock market and this is where their investors will get the big payoff. There are some local famous examples of these but I will not go into this now.


Ethics is pretty much in short supply specially when it comes to start up in Hong Kong and Asia, Most CEO's tend to put a lot of pressure on their staff for working longer hours claiming 'A' rate performers are the only ones they want in the company, with claims that their staff are working till midnight usually for months or even the years and showing off about it makes it hard for them to recruit new staff. These 'A' rate performers that they want are smart enough to figure out that this would not be a good environment for their career growth or future prospects, And at the same time alienating their already hired staff who feel that they're being overlooked for promotion or pay rises or even responsibility, In many cases it's more like the honeymoon effect but every time a new developer or employee joined the company they are the best thing since the last one and thenThere will be forgotten when the next one joins.
Many of these companies will offer incentives such as the shares or try to lower your salary with the big promise but at the end of the day their expectations are not as easily understood as yours and as such you may find yourself not getting those rewards that have been promised, so the best thing to do in this situation is to lock in what your expectations are at the beginning and get agreement in writing to how you will be rewarded.

Freelance and contractors

From an IT or developer perspective we are in short supplyAnd many companies will depend on outsource resources such as freelancers or contractors. But let's understand it a little bit more! People working within large organisations tend to use contractors or freelancers to solve their short-term technical problems but they are also unrealistic on timeframes and they are usually not very good at writing or delivering their requirements clearly which results in the contractor or freelancer having to spend extra time to solve problems that could have easily been solved if the requirements were more clearly defined in the beginning. One particular company, a large retail organisation uses this to their advantage in that they will put unrealistic deadlines on outsource companies to solve their problems and they be put into place a lot of expectations which don't really come out until after the product delivery time, so from a freelance point of view you have to be sure what you are going to do before you commit and have it agreed. If it changes you have to put time on those changes and add it to the deadline.  Trust me there is no such thing as a small change.


As a foreigner working in Hong Kong I see a lot of politics happening but I'm not included in most of them because they don't think that I understand this can be an advantage but you still have to be careful, If you say or do you something that may not be in the company's best interest even if it's a joke would give the other person the opportunity to polish shoes. As a software engineer and technical mindset I tend to stay away from these political things and if you focus on the task at hand and you don't get involved in Who's Who and you're not too worried about trying to get promotion then this should not be a problem but it is still something to be aware of.


Getting a promotion in Hong Kong Hong Kong company is very difficult and most people would generally change job to get a promotion rather than work within one organisation. Space Hong Kong is famous for its yearly migration generally after Chinese New Year people will change job and this is because Chinese New Year is the time they get their bonus, so get your bonus, change company, get pay rise, is the model Although this does not mean everybody it is still very popular activity.


Tax is variable around Asia but in Hong Kong it is paid yearly and the tax rate maximum is 15% but normally you would pay less because allowances will bring the total down and every year the government will have some incentive or payback. One addition to the tax is something they call NPSThis is the retirement scheme that everyone must pay into usually you would pay a maximum of $1000 from your salary and the company would pay $1000 from their contribution which means you would effectively get $2000 every month into your retirement plan.

Final note

Working for companies in Asia can be quite exciting and fruitful, and working through a top talent freelancing site as Toptal and work with top talent at Toptal software Engineers Community, you will learn a lot of things very quickly and move onto the next new thing but also you need to be wary as some of these companies have many problems to solve. But job Security is not one of the factors but the marketplace is quite resilient and there are a lot of opportunities especially in Hong Kong and around Asia.

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